Beyond the Neon Glow
A Local's Look at Las Vegas
To many people, Las Vegas is all about the Strip—the flashy neon lights, the crowded streets, and the jingling slot machines. But as a Las Vegas local, I know there is a world of beauty and adventure hidden just beyond the neon glow. Here’s your guide to Las Vegas’s hidden gems from a local’s perspective.
Places to Stay
When it comes to resorts in Las Vegas, there are plenty of options away from the Strip. One of my favorites is Tahiti Village. When you step into this tropical-style resort, you’ll find yourself immersed in a tranquil oasis. I love floating down the palm-tree-lined lazy river and relaxing on the sandy beach (yes, I said beach!) by the pool. Tahiti Village is perfect for families with kids of all ages, and it’s a great staycation option for local families, too. In such a lush, relaxing environment, you’ll forget that you’re just two miles away from the heart of Vegas.
If you fancy a little more distance from the downtown bustle, you might consider Red Rock Resort. This beautiful property is about 20 minutes away from the Strip and offers Vegas luxury in a family-friendly setting. The resort features a large pool with private cabanas, a bowling alley, a movie theater, an arcade, and several buffets and restaurants. There’s lots to love about Red Rock Resort, but perhaps the best part is the quick access to some of Vegas’s best-kept secret spots, including Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
My favorite part of Las Vegas is Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Beautiful banded sandstone cliff faces tower over creek beds, sage brush, and Native American artifacts. Red Rock is a must-see, even if you only drive the Scenic Loop and snap a few pictures of those breathtaking views. If you’re feeling more adventurous, there are countless activities to enjoy in the canyon. Red Rock is a world-renowned rock climbing and bouldering destination. I prefer to stick to the hiking trails, and there are dozens to choose from. My favorite is the Pine Creek Canyon Trail. It’s not too strenuous and features beautiful scenery, including a ponderosa pine forest that’s been around since the Ice Age. The trail also leads past a historic homestead, which doubles as a great place for a picnic. Families with young kids will love the Lost Creek Children’s Discovery Trail. This easy adventure is the perfect way to learn about ancient Native Americans, local wildlife, and geological processes. I recommend printing out the Discovery Trail Guide before your hike. It includes information and activities to keep the kids occupied and enrich your experience.
If roaming the canyon on foot doesn’t sound fun, there are plenty of other ways to explore. For example, you can cruise the canyon in style with Pink Jeep Tours. Your expert tour guide will pick you up from your hotel and take you on an adventure to remember, complete with desert tortoise meet-and-greets.
Hoping to reconnect with the spirit of the Southwest? Join Big Jim and the gang at Cowboy Trail Rides for a canyon excursion that would make Annie Oakley proud. You’ll explore Red Rock the western way: on horseback. If you’re lucky, your tour may even end with a classic cowboy barbecue. With a wide range of tours to choose from and horses gentle enough for even the most beginner buckaroo, this experience is great for the whole family.
Up for a bit of a drive? Have I got a gem for you! Head out to the Hoover Dam in Boulder City and embark on a rafting tour with Awesome Adventures. You’ll launch from the base of the dam and float gently down Colorado River in a large, comfortable raft. Experienced guides will teach you about the dam’s construction in the 1930s and will point out wildlife like bighorn sheep and great blue heron. Your tour will pause along the shoreline, where you can explore and eat a picnic lunch. I can personally vouch for this incredible experience—it’s something you will never forget!
Sports and Entertainment
If you want to experience Las Vegas like a local, you’ve got to check out the Vegas Golden Knights (VGK). You’d be hard-pressed to find a car in the Vegas Valley that isn’t sporting a VGK bumper sticker, and for good reason. This Vegas-born expansion team has taken the NHL by storm and features some of the best players in the league. Game tickets are hard to come by, but I’ve got a little secret for you: all VGK practices are open to public viewing for free. Check out the VGK Twitter feed for schedule updates and head over to City National Arena to watch the pros in action. Then stop by The Arsenal gift shop and pick up a bumper sticker for yourself. Oh, and while you’re there, say hi to Ryan Reaves for me, would you? He’s my favorite player.
Does your family enjoy a good live performance? If you’re in town during the summer, you’ll want to check out the Super Summer Theatre at Spring Mountain Ranch. This outdoor amphitheater features local talent in your favorite musicals and plays, from West Side Story to Mary Poppins. Pack some snacks and bring the kids for a fun evening in the canyon.
Arts and Culture
Looking for something geared towards an older crowd? Head downtown to the Mob Museum, where you’ll travel back in time to Las Vegas’s intriguing past. Learn about famous mobsters who built crooked empires in the desert, discover how law enforcement fought back, and take a peek into the world of modern organized crime. Finish off your trip by sneaking into a real speakeasy in the basement of the museum to learn about the Prohibition Era and grab a bite to eat.
Itching to learn more about Vegas’s history? Check out the Neon Museum, a collection of iconic neon signs dating back to the 1930s. Stroll through this immersive love letter to Las Vegas and catch a glimpse of just how far we’ve come.
That just about does it for our family-friendly Vegas adventure. The Strip does have a lot to offer, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to explore! I hope you’ll bring your loved ones and discover what hidden gems wait here beyond the neon glow.